All About History - - CONTENTS - Jack Par­sons Edi­tor

The shadow of the Witchfinder Gen­eral looms long over his­tory. Matthew Hopkins presided over Eng­land’s worst witch hunt, dis­patch­ing

300 peo­ple to the gal­lows be­tween 1644 and

1647. His in­flu­ence could also be felt at the Salem tri­als over half a cen­tury later, with many of the Pu­ri­tan set­tlers that turned on each other in Mas­sachusetts com­ing from the same eastern coun­ties in which Hopkins went about his bloody busi­ness. Even to­day the pop cul­ture im­agery of the witch – pointed hat, broom­stick, black cat – has its roots in the mid-17th cen­tury. Hopkins’ per­sonal leg­end also lives on, in­spir­ing the 1968 Ham­mer Hor­ror film Witchfinder Gen­eral.

This is all the more im­pres­sive as Sa­tanic pan­ics were old in Britain by the time Hopkins came to power, more closely as­so­ci­ated with Tu­dor times (Henry VIII passed Eng­land’s first law against witch­craft in 1547) and the later reign of the witch-ob­sessed James VI & I.

How­ever, while Hopkins’ dark charisma must have been cap­ti­vat­ing, per­haps we shouldn’t point the fin­ger of blame en­tirely in his di­rec­tion. At the time Hopkins was op­er­at­ing, Britain was en­gulfed in a civil war, which had whipped up sec­tar­i­an­ism and sus­pi­cion for him to tap into. Find out what re­ally hap­pened from page 30.

Dis­cover how pho­tog­ra­phy de­vel­oped from page 14

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